Jim Caldwell was the most successful Detroit Lions coach in decades, and yet the team elected to move on from him after the 2017 season in favor of Matt Patricia.
Now, perhaps ironically, Patricia has fallen flat in his first two years as the boss in Detroit, amassing a worse 9-20-1 record than Caldwell. To the naked eye, it looks as if the team has regressed in tons of ways under Patricia’s leadership, and many former players have spoken out about the difference in styles.
Interestingly, ESPN host and analyst Trey Wingo provided his take on where the Lions were at, and admitted that he can understand some of the confusion as it relates to why the Lions would stick with Patricia and yet be so quick to move on from Caldwell.
Here’s a look at what he said:
“When people look at African American coaches and sometimes how quickly the hook has gone, this is why they question it,” Wingo said. “When Steve Wilks was fired after one season in Arizona, people are like ‘why is this happening?’ I’m not saying it’s not the right reason and the right thing to bring Matt Patricia back, and bring back Bob Quinn. But when you’ve had someone who’s had the success that Jim Caldwell has and it wasn’t enough, and you bring in a guy who’s record is nowhere near what Jim Caldwell’s was, by the way, he has a .562 winning percentage, that’s the best since Buddy Parker in the 50s. This is why people say ‘why is this happening?'”
Caldwell had some quality seasons in Detroit, but he had his own holes on his resume, not leading the Lions to a playoff win or a division title. When the decision to make the change was made, it was based on this. The decision to move to Patricia was based on the fact that Quinn felt he could get the team over the hump. It obviously hasn’t happened to this point.
Jim Caldwell’s Lions Tenure
Caldwell took over from Jim Schwartz in 2014 and immediately helped Detroit get back on the right track in terms of being positioned for the playoffs. Just one year after his arrival, the Lions were 11-5 and in the postseason. They came up short against the Dallas Cowboys. Caldwell bottomed out the next season, and had a few average years where the team hung around
As a whole, he was 36-28 with the Lions which was a solid tenure. It was the 0-2 mark in the postseason which got Caldwell in the biggest amount of trouble with the franchise and ended up sinking his time with the team. Right or wrong, the Lions made the decision they couldn’t get over the hump with Caldwell and moved on.
Matt Patricia’s Lions Tenure
Patricia came to the Lions fresh off success in New England in 2018, and struggled out of the gate to capture the attention of the locker room. A bumpy start paved the way to a more solid finish in 2018 with the team only winning six games, but defeating squads like the New England Patriots, Green Bay Packers and Carolina Panthers, which offered hope.
Patricia has helped the Lions stay in games for the most part in 2019, something which the team struggled with in 2018, but has not gotten them over the hump at closing. That’s perhaps his biggest wart so far as a boss, combined with a lousy defense that has not picked up the program whatsoever. Patricia might get more of a pass considering the absurd amount of injuries he’s dealt with, but it’s hard to ignore that in his tenure as coach, the Lions have had the same discipline problems plague them that always have through the years.
The bet is that both Patricia and Quinn get a mulligan on 2019 considering the rash of injuries that have set the team back, while also living with the understanding that 2020 is likely the make or break year for this group.
Patricia keeps maintaining the Lions are better than their record says and the franchise is close to being on the right track.
He has a lot to prove in 2020 in order to keep his job and prove that he has the team moving forward.